A motor vehicle is stolen every 46 seconds in the United States, according to the Insurance Information Institute. Many times, the thieves are professionals who steal vehicles for a living, so it’s imperative that you do your utmost to protect yourself and your car or truck.
Professional thieves tend to target high performance vehicles, or cars and trucks that are less exotic and contain parts that are easily interchangeable. After stealing a car, they take the vehicle to a “chop shop” where the car is dismantled and the parts are sold. Or conversely, car thieves steal cars to export to other countries, often stealing specific vehicles to fulfill requests for certain types of vehicles.
According to an ex-car thief, all it takes is 20 seconds to break into and steal a car. In the amount of time it takes to drop off a library book or pick up your carryout dinner, a thief could have nabbed your stereo, computer, camera, or the entire vehicle.
Here are some simple steps you can take to deter car thieves:
Car locks exist for a reason
Leave your vehicle locked at all times, even while driving. Far too often, thieves steal vehicles while drivers are waiting at a stoplight with their doors unlocked.
Keep your keys close
Also, never leave your car running and unattended. For those who leave in areas that experience snowy weather conditions, I know how tempting it is to leave the ignition running to warm your car while you run indoors for other family members or your belongings. However, unattended vehicles left running with the keys in the ignition are easy targets for thieves.
Anti-theft systems are your friend
If your vehicle does not come with a security system, most automotive stores offer car alarm installation services. There are also many car alarm installation systems available for purchase online that are easy to install.
Steering wheel locks, such as The Club, are easy to install and affordable.
LoJack’s Stolen Vehicle Recovery System is a product that can be installed on a new or used car that allows vehicles that are stolen to be tracked by law enforcement. While a more expensive option at approximately $695, LoJack claims a 90% recovery rate.
Lastly, an ex-car thief also recommends buying a little blinking light from an automotive store that can be affixed to the dashboard of your car. Oftentimes thieves will pass on the opportunity to break into a car when they see a blinking light on the car’s dashboard, as it could indicate the vehicle has an alarm system. It may be fake, but amazingly, those blinking lights are often as effective as an actual car alarm system.
Be aware of your surroundings
While this seems to be common sense to stay on safe, well-lit street, you may inadvertently stray into a high crime area. With the aid of all the GPS systems available today on mobile phones and in cars, try to plot your path to a destination in advance. You will be able to avoid accidentally ending up in an area where both you and your car are at risk.
Also, if at all possible, park your car in a well-lit parking lot rather than on the street. Having your car surrounded by other vehicles and people coming and going, make it less of a target.
Light is your friend
Park in well-lit areas where there are many streetlights available. Also consider installing motion sensor lights on the sides of your house, if you park in the driveway. Make sure these lights are installed over 6 feet high, so that they cannot be easily unscrewed and removed.
Keep your car clean
If your car has nothing in it, what is there for a thief to steal? However, if you are forced to temporarily store valuables for the short term, always make sure to stow them away in your trunk where they are out of sight and out of mind for thieves.
Chain your spare tire
If you own a van or truck, make sure that you have your spare tire visibly chained to your vehicle. Thieves often rip off spare tires and sell them to turn a profit, and if your spare tire is harder to steal, they’ll tend to look elsewhere for an easier mark.